The best places to work in IT don't sit back and watch as current and former employees use social networks to shape the public's perception of their reputations as employers. They dive into the conversation and connect with members of the community. They engage and cultivate the marketplace of potential candidates, and in the process demonstrate the value they place on skills development and promotion.
By doing so, they aren't just nurturing talent and building a candidate pipeline. They're putting into action the employment brand they want to be known for.
One way organizations can engage the talent community is to motivate and empower current employees to tend their own professional brands by publicizing their on-the-job successes. In the past, the idea of encouraging employees to promote their professional capabilities was considered risky and generally avoided. IT organizations sought to keep a tight grip on development secrets and hide innovation behind closed doors until they were ready for a product launch.
That mindset started to change in 2002 with the debut of Google Labs, which made a skunk works approach to development acceptable, even productive. Around the same time, Google's "20% time" program emerged. Under that policy, Google employees can spend 20% of their time working on any new idea or innovative advancement, as long as it's one that can benefit Google in some way.
This resulted in some of Google's most successful products, including Gmail and Google Calendar, and thus became a storied part of its employment identity and corporate culture.
While it took some time for Google's ideas to spread, the best IT employers today are looking to cultivate the intellectual power of their workforces, and they see the value in encouraging their employees to make their efforts public. The idea is to not only promote a culture of continuous company-sanctioned innovation, but to allow employees to become employment brand ambassadors.
These employers recognize that helping their employees publicize their achievements and elevate their professional personas in the public digital domain could have a positive impact on the organization. A public demonstration of the fact that an organization invests in its workforce and takes pride in its employees' accomplishments could inspire current employees and help attract other ambitious IT professionals.
Talented technical professionals looking for a new challenge must be mindful of the support they will (or won't) get from a potential employer. When evaluating career opportunities, they should consider not only what they can do for their employers, but also what their employers will do for them beyond handing out paychecks.
One way to determine an employer's commitment to employee development is by looking at its LinkedIn page. If the organization is regularly updating the page, evaluate what kind of information is being shared. Is it promoting corporate blog posts? If so, take note of who is doing the writing. The most compelling blogs offer a voice or perspective beyond that of the marketing team. Technology companies in particular should think of a blog as a forum in which they can demonstrate the insight and innovation of their employees.
IT professionals should look for organizations that thrive on employee-driven innovation and promote employee accomplishments that contribute to overall success. If a company fails to deliver on either of those counts, there's a strong possibility that its employment culture is more like 2003 than 2013.
Joel Capperella is senior vice president of customer solutions at Yoh, a provider of professional staffing. He is also a regular contributor at The Seamless Workforce, covering managed staffing and workforce management.